Mounted combat hasn’t been nearly as much of a focus in 5th Edition as some previous editions, or other TTRPG systems like Pathfinder, for that matter. However, there are rules in existence for mounted combat in 5E as well as several feats that work together to make that build a real possibility.
This definitely starts with the mounted combatant feat, which is an absolute necessity when it comes to creating a viable character focused on being a horseman, or riding a bear, or whatever might be your mount of choice.
Mounted Combatant TL;DR: Mounted combatant gives advantage to melee attacks from a mount larger than the target and offers multiple protections to prevent mounts from getting killed left and right.
Mounted combat brings some interesting wrinkles to what players can do in D&D, and the rules as written (RAW) bring surprisingly few details or restrictions to a the feat. While this feat is largely situational, keep in mind that there are “common sense” details like reach or “Do small enemies have disadvantage?” issues that aren’t clearly covered in the books.
Talk with your DM to figure out important details before jumping in whole hog.
Breaking Down the Mounted Combatant Feat
Let’s take a deeper look at mounted combat in general in 5E and how necessary the mounted combatant feat is to make it work.
Directly from the Player’s Handbook:
You are a dangerous foe to face while mounted. While you are mounted and aren’t incapacitated, you gain the following benefits:
- You have advantage on melee attack rolls against any unmounted creature that is smaller than your mount
- You can force an attack targeted at your mount to target you instead.
- If your mount is subjected to an effect that allows it to make a Dexterity saving throw to take only half damage, it instead takes no damage if it succeeds on the saving throw, and only half damage if it fails.
The Player’s Handbook p.168
The are some pretty good feats here so let’s dive into each one.
Benefit #1: Advantage on melee attack rolls against any unmounted creature smaller than your mount.
If you get a large mount, that is a very powerful benefit that can make your mounted combatant absolutely devastating. The important caveat: size is defined very specifically in D&D, and you must use their definition within the system whether the mount is in the Dungeon Master’s Guide, The Monster Manual, or the back of The Player’s Handbook.
So it’s not a “black bear is bigger than a man” because both creatures are considered medium sized. You need to find a creature that is actually marked as large (or bigger).
However, if you can get an elephant, or a gryphon, or a giant ant, something considered large versus medium then you are in great shape and get advantage on the attacks.
Common Large Mounts:
- War Horse
- Elephant (the DM may rightfully balk at this, but an elephant is mentioned as a common to find mount in the D&D world)
Animals Marked as Large in PHB Appendix (but will likely take story or special circumstances to use as a mount)
- Brown (Grizzly) Bear
- Dire Wolf
- Giant Spider
- Giant Eagle
- Giant Constrictor Snake (realistically this should never work)
Uncommon Mounts (almost certainly will require DM approval and an in-game story to have a shot at)
- Giant Spider probably counts
- Giant frog
- Owl Bear
- A good-natured Druid who tolerates you?
- Any usual non-domesticated creature from the Monster Manual
Benefit #2: You can force an attack targeted at your mount to target you instead.
This is important as you almost certainly have a higher AC and more hit points. Your horse might be hit with an arrow at 15 while your plate armored fighter sneers at the goblin’s pathetic attempt. Except at the lowest levels you’ll also have more hit points, making this a better option sometimes even when the attack does hit.
Benefit #3: On a Dexterity saving throw your mount only takes half damage on a fail, and no damage on a success.
This is also a good benefit, and frankly a necessary mechanic to make a mounted combat build work in 5E DnD. You might not be able to completely dodge the fireball effects but your mount can.
Note that this damage reduction applies to the mount, not the player. However, if the DM home rules it otherwise then suddenly this feat is much, much stronger, but that’s not how it works RAW.
Benefit #4: Mixes extremely well with the charger feat.
We reviewed the 5E charger feat earlier on this website, and it’s not just for barbarians and monks, it’s also a very good choice to combine with mounted combatant, giving a Sharpshooter-esque ability to add damage attack bonus. If you’re getting advantage on the attack already, it’s definitely a great time to take the the +5 damage.
5E Classes That Should Look at Taking the Mounted Combatant Feat
The mounted combatant is a bit unusual if for no other reason than it demands a specific build. So the classes that “should always” take it mantra doesn’t really apply. If your barbarian or fighter doesn’t want to ride a horse than it doesn’t matter how good the feat is – they shouldn’t take it. However, for the players interested in being more cavalry-based in their next campaign this is a must-take feat.
The usual melee based suspects make up most of the classes that could make the most out of a mounted combatant feat: barbarians, fighters, paladins, and melee-based rangers (perhaps the Beast Master) could all be viable builds for a mounted melee combatant, and they might find this feat invaluable in making that build actually work in the 5E system.
5th Ed Classes that should always take the Mounted Combatant Feat:
- Ranger (melee-based or Beast Master)
5E Classes That Might Consider Taking the Mounted Combatant Feat
This might work best with a Hexblade Warlock or some Clerics. The Nature Cleric in particular is an interesting potential option for the mounted combatant feat and if they stay with light armor will have a high dex which is good for those Dex-saves that keeps their mount healthy and unincinerated from fireballs.
There aren’t many middle-of-the-road classes when it comes to the mounted combatant feat. They’re either heavy in direct melee or not, and even some classes like druids, rogues, and monks have features that make it obvious why they would not go in this direction or be optimal for this type of build.
While most nature clerics or hexblade warlocks aren’t necessarily going to go mounted, I’d argue a brown bear for the nature cleric and a giant poisonous spider for the warlock would be a pretty great thing to see in a campaign. Just saying.
5th Ed Classes that should consider taking the Mounted Combatant Feat:
- Warlock (melee-build)
5E Classes That Should NEVER Take the Mounted Combatant Feat
Pretty simple list on this one. Some classes just aren’t built for mounted combat or just don’t get the same benefits from it that other classes would.
Because of that your spell casters, distance fighters, and the druid, monk, and rogue are classes that just don’t have a good reason to take a look at the mounted combatant feat or to be part of this build.
5th Ed classes that should never take the Mounted Combatant Feat:
- Ranger (archery build)
- Warlock (conventional build)
How to Build a Mounted Combat Character in 5E
There are multiple details you need to know before deciding to build a mounted combat character for a 5E campaign as the order of build for a 10 level game is different than a 15 or 20 level game. Likewise, if the entire campaign is crawling through narrow underground caves and tunnels towards Under Mountain then it’s time to shelve this for something in the future.
So what details do you need to know to make a good mounted combat character? What steps do you need to take?
- Talk to the DM about the type of campaign, the level limit, and about playing a mounted character and what options might be ope in the beginning or future (and what limits the DM will impose)
- Take the Mounted Combatant Feat
- Work on building a high Dexterity score
- Take the Charger Feat
- Look at getting armor for your mount
- Look at improved mount options
- Consider the piercer/slasher feat depending on your weapon choice
While building a mounted combat character takes a lot of focus and planning, it can be done and can result in a very interesting and powerful 5E character worth giving a run in the next campaign.
Final Grade for 5E Mounted Combatant Feat
Mounted Combatant Feat Grade: C
Is the 5E Mounted Combatant Feat Worth It?
If you have your heart set on building a character that focuses on mounted combat then this feat is an absolute necessity. This gives you important advantages to fighting on horseback, makes the lance a viable weapon choice because you go into battle mounted, and allows your mount to survive into high level battles.
While there’s nothing about this mount that is super special, and it only applies to a very limited number of builds or characters, so it’s a solid C grade. If you want to specialize in mounted combat it’s a necessary feat that gets the mechanics right. If not, then it’s useless.
Mounted Combatant Feat FAQ
Does mounted combatant give advantage to ranged attacks?
No. There’s a reason that the benefit with the mounted combatant feat would give advantage to ranged attacks and the text of the feat specifically states that advantage is only for melee attacks. While I suppose the argument could be made that the extra height gives better field of vision but RAW is clear only melee attacks get the benefit.
What are common mounts for 5E mounted combatant?
The most common to start are horse and war horse. Depending on the setting camels and elephants are some of the more exotic “normal” mounts that are available. Anything beyond that will often not be available, but if you talk with a DM or are willing to roll the dice daily with cleric powers and/or spells to keep animals in line, you might have a chance to get a large exotic mount later on.
What is the best mount for mounted combatant in 5E?
Starting out for most it will be either war horse or possibly brown bear. If you are looking for “common” exotics, as in those that might allow it, Gryphon or Unicorn would be the most broken OP. Also if you’re using Tasha’s Guide to Everything and have sidekicks, a wizard polymorphing our sidekick into a T-Rex is also a viable (though your DM will be unhappy) option.
What feats should I take with a mounted combatant build in 5th Edition Dungeons & Dragons?
The charger feat is an obvious one to give extra damage to that initial charge. If you’re using a lance and looking to break through and enemy line that can be a great combination. Add the slasher or piercer feat depending on the weapon used and you get a bit extra out of any damage inflicted.
What happens if your mount dies in 5E?
You need to buy or train a new one. There’s no automatic reimagining of a mount.
Is there any reason to take the mounted combatant feat if your mount is medium-sized (like a gnome riding a Mastiff)?
There’s no optimal reason to go with a build, but if you love this image and have watched a little too much Labyrinth, the good news is that it isn’t necessarily total trash, either. A smaller character like a gnome or halfling still get extra speed or movement from having a mount, and extra mobility isn’t nothing.
And at early levels you still might have a chance to go after goblins or other small evil creatures, so occasionally you might still get advantage in certain situations.
Other DnD Articles You Might Enjoy
- Medium Armor Master 5E
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- 5E Inspiring Leader Feat
- 5E Heavily Armored
- Heavy Armor Master Feat 5E
- Resilient Feat Guide 5E
Proud to embrace the locally created moniker of “Corrupt Overlord” from one of the all time great Lords of Waterdeep runs, Shane is one member of the Assorted Meeples crew and will be hard at work creating awesome content for the website. He is a long-time player of board games, one time semi-professional poker player, and tends to run to the quirky or RPG side of things when it comes to playing video games. He loves tabletop roleplaying systems like Dungeons & Dragons, Pathfinder, Werewolf, Fate, and others, and not only has been a player but has run games as DM for years. You can find his other work in publications like Level Skip or Hobby Lark.